The UK authorities face a series of challenges in taking enforcement action against secondary ticketing sites that flout consumer law, according to a legal expert.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in November that it is ready to take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law after the completion of an investigation into the sector. It said it has gathered evidence, which it considers reveals breaches of the law, and identified “widespread concerns” about the information consumers are given.

However, Louise Millington-Roberts of Hill Dickinson LLP, in an opinion published by the Lexology legal news website, said that threats without tough action will fail to constrain those who continue to operate in defiance of UK law.

Millington-Roberts argued that the CMA is having to broaden its investigation into the secondary ticketing sector because of deficient legislation, despite the passing of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015) and the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA 2017) in the last three years.

‘Biggest challenge’

“The biggest challenge faced by the CMA and other enforcement authorities may include jurisdictional issues, as a secondary ticket website may give the impression that it is located outside of UK jurisdiction,” wrote Millington-Roberts.

“This is an obstacle which can be overcome, particularly where the companies trade from and employ people in the UK, however it would not be straightforward and other measures would then need to be taken if a court order was not complied with, to bring an end to its trading in the UK.”

Millington-Roberts said that the nature of penalties would be crucial in ensuring compliance.

“It also remains to be seen how the enforcement authority will impose the financial penalty if legislation is successfully enforced,” she wrote.

“A £5,000 fine for a breach of CRA 2015 is substantial if this breach relates to each individual ticket advertisement, but insubstantial if it is not retrospective and only relates to all ticket listings for one event.

“It is quite clear that compliance with legislation and best practice will only evolve with the enforcement of consumer laws against the few that will remain defiant.”

IMAGE: Martin Fisch